The difference between a traveler and a “digital tourist”

A few weeks ago I was living in Lima, exploring the food, culture and people in their own language. I also participated in a market intelligence conference as the keynote speaker and humble listener.

More frequently posts on the “dark” side of being a digital nomad, expat or global citizen appears in my feeds. The darkness is often described by the perceived difficulties in getting to know locals and feeling lonely. Boo-hoo.

“Travel is glamorous only in retrospect.” — Paul Theroux

What is being described from my chosen perspective is “digital tourists”, people that take an extended drunken vacation after college or a breakup, moonlighting coding, running community or doing search engine optimization for a floundering startup, relocated to a handful of beaches in South East Asia, kicking it with other tourists in cafes and bars, pushing their culture instead of being open to be changed by new cultures.

“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” — Robert Louis Stevenson

Then the hangover hits like a wet wool blanket on a hot and humid Hong Kong summer’s day. The smarter tourists learn that they need to change, adapt to a new culture and language, and starts doing the work it takes to belong. The short-lived tourists cry wolf and buy an one-way ticket home.

“People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home.” — Dagobert D. Runes

Technology has enabled us to live and work anywhere and I appreciate a great experiment, pushing the boundaries as far as possible. But I also know a spring break when I see one, be that it’s wrapped in the monocle “digital nomad”.

“Your true traveler finds boredom rather agreeable than painful. It is the symbol of his liberty-his excessive freedom. He accepts his boredom, when it comes, not merely philosophically, but almost with pleasure.” — Aldous Huxley

My perspective is that we live on a planet without boundaries and borders, filled with amazing languages and cultures, wrapped in beautiful neighborhoods and cities, populated by brilliant people.

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” — Henry Miller

My passion is to explore this world, adapting to new cultures, let them change me, learn the language and learn to see the world differently. It really has nothing to do with technology as I would have done this without the Internet and it’s nothing nomadic about my lifestyle either. Instead of just having access to one house in my birth city I have several in different cities across the world.

“To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.” — Freya Stark

I’m a traveler, an immigrant, a friend and a local. But never a digital nomad.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.